Today Anneke Forzani from Language Lizard tells us more about World Folktales and Fables Week, and introduces some good books for celebrating it...
by Anneke Forzani
Every culture has its own way of teaching lessons and sharing how different things came to be. Many do this through the telling of fables or folktales. Each story explores the origin of different phenomena and reflects important values. Folktales are a perfect way to teach students or children about different cultures and languages from around the world.
World Folktales and Fables Week is held every March, and this year it will take place from March 20th to 26th. This event is dedicated to encouraging children and adults to explore the lessons and cultural background of folktales, fables, myths and legends from around the world.
Folktales and fables are beloved by children around the world. The simple characters, settings, and alluring conflict early in the story help folktales grab the reader’s attention. Recall The Three Little Pigs, in which each of the three pigs needs to build a house, but a hungry wolf tries to eat them up. Folktales develop quickly, and often obstacles seem insurmountable before everything is ultimately resolved to our satisfaction. Good wins out over evil.
Folktales provide an excellent way to teach kids about the consequences of good and bad behavior, the value of cooperation, and the rewards of courage and ingenuity. In stories such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Three Billy Goats Gruff, we can see repetition and rhythm that are very appealing to children. Of course, when humor and cunning are used to outsmart an adversary, everyone has a good time.
Folktales From Around the World
It is valuable for kids to read folktales that originated in other parts of the world. The stories in classic folklore offer both social lessons as well as an opportunity to teach about cultures and languages. Below are a few popular fables and folktales that support diversity education and are available in many language editions to support language learners.
You’ve heard of Cinderella, but what about the story of Yeh-Hsien? Believed to be the original Cinderella story, Yeh-Hsien is a girl raised by a wicked stepmother, living a hard life with the most difficult chores. The stepmother kills her favorite fish, but Yeh-Hsien is amazed to discover that the fish bones are magical! Her greatest wish is to attend the village festival, but she loses her slipper there.
Mamy Wata is the queen of all the water. One day, when she is swimming peacefully in a big river, she hears the news: a terrible monster has been scaring the nearby villagers. So Mamy Wata lies in wait near the monster’s cave. But, to her great surprise, instead of finding a monster, she finds a sad and lonely man who has been bewitched. This colorfully illustrated book brings African story-telling culture to life on each page.
This entertaining Bengali story is about an old woman who travels through the forest to meet her daughter. The woman meets many creatures along the way – and they all want to eat her! She makes a plan to outsmart them, with the help of her daughter. But will the sly fox be fooled?
To explore eight other favorite folktales from around the world, click here.
Reimagining Popular Folktales with a Multicultural Twist
Sometimes, with common folktales, the animals or settings chosen to demonstrate the lessons in the story hold a different significance for different cultures. In addition to looking at folktales and fairy tales that originated in another part of the world, it’s fun for kids to read a common fable with a multicultural twist. It can also boost children’s self-esteem when their own culture or language is represented. The stories below responsively retell a classic folktale with culturally relevant animals, food, and settings. These adventures are set in diverse areas around the world and come with lesson plans and activities that encourage children to learn more about other countries and cultures. They are also available in many bilingual editions to support language learners.
In the rainforest of Central America, three howler monkeys decide to build houses of their own. This lively retelling of The Three Little Pigs showcases how a different setting can lead to different houses for the howler monkeys. From eating pepian to outsmarting a jaguar, this multicultural resource introduces readers to a new part of the world, but through a familiar story.
In the setting of a tropical rainforest in Asia, the sun bears experience different issues when faced with the threat of a ferocious Siberian tiger. In the end, they resolve the problem in a surprising way and offer readers a chance to learn more about food, settings, and animals from the region.
Reading world folktales and fables with the kids in your family or classroom is a great opportunity to teach, bond, and work on literacy skills. It’s easy to download these lessons, along with other multicultural lesson plans that you can use throughout the year.
Are any of these folktales new to you? What folktales do you share with your young learners? Continue the conversation online with #Folktales and #Fables!
Anneke Forzani is the president of Language Lizard (www.LanguageLizard.com), an independent publisher that offers children’s books in over 50 languages, audio resources, and free lessons to support culturally responsive teaching. Anneke founded Language Lizard to provide educators, librarians, and parents with resources that develop literacy skills among English Language Learners, build inclusive classrooms, and celebrate cultural diversity. She is the author of the teaching manual Building Bridges with Bilingual Books and Multicultural Resources and numerous bilingual children’s books. She also manages blog.languagelizard.com, a resource for parents and teachers working with language learners and culturally diverse students.